Struggling to squeeze in a Christmas tree that’s too tall and wide for the space in your home? It’s not always easy to realistically judge the best Christmas tree to buy is for your home.
Bigger the better might seem like a good approach when it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, but squashed-in probably isn’t the look you’re really hoping for, so it’s far better to give a little thought to what size and style of tree is going to be best.
We spoke to Christmas tree expert David Mitchell about the 7 things to consider when choosing your tree…
What is the best Christmas tree to buy for your home?
1. How tall should your Christmas tree be?
The first thing you need to consider is ceiling height, says David.
“A lot of people have no idea how tall their ceiling is. When you imagine a tree in a certain space, it’s easy to get over-ambitious as to what you can fit in there,” he says.
“You also have to remember that the stand is going to add perhaps another six inches to the overall height of the tree, and quite often you find that you are having to cut the top off, or something that compromises the shape of the tree. So measure the tree and make allowances for the stand.”
2. How wide should your Christmas tree be?
“A lot of the trees are coming through very wide. The Nordmann, by its very nature, is a wide variety with a wide skirt around the base. We’ve been doing pruning work in the fields to help keep it within certain limits,” says David.
“A lot of people want something that’s big, bushy and deluxe. But as a general trend, we do want them slimmer and we try to accommodate that.”
3. What style of Christmas tree is it?
If your space is very restricted and you want an extremely slim tree, try a Swedish style Nordmann. It costs slightly less than a traditional Nordmann, but these tend to sell out fast, so if you’re interested you need to act soon.
“Back in 2014, we recognised there was very much a trend for artificial trees at that time that were very stripped out and minimalist, following a Scandinavian approach, where you could see the light coming through between the branches.
“We decided to do a version of that with our living trees, so we were selecting trees which had that layered effect, and prune in the field to get that shape and layered effect.”
Alternatively, the Fraser fir has a much more narrow profile, which has a more columnar figure and upright habit. Its branches sweeping upwards rather than downwards.
4. What sort of scent are you after?
For many people, the fragrances of the festive season are part of the appeal, so think about whether you want your tree to be scented.
“You also have to consider whether you want something highly scented, which might steer you towards a Fraser fir. You can get artificial scents to put in the tree, but there’s nothing like the real thing,” notes David.
Christmas trees with a great scent
We’ve rounded up three Christmas trees that will fill your room with natural festive scents – perfect to create that cosy, Christmas-y feeling.
Fraser fir (Abies fraseri)
Horticulture expert Tim Evans explains: “The tree that has the most scent is the Fraser fir, which is a bit citrussy.”
It’s ideal for those with limited space as it’s slim, so you’re less likely to brush past it and knock off decorations in a smaller room, but it also has a great shape and fresh scent, and its dark olive-green needles don’t drop.
It’s likely to be more expensive than the more popular Nordmann, and there won’t be as many available as it’s a more difficult tree to grow commercially.
Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana)
Often the answer to the question: What is the best Christmas tree to buy? This is most popular tree, it won’t drop its needles for the duration of the festive season. It will give you some scent if you look after it and keep it watered. People love it because of its dense branches, uniform shape and a good variety of sizes.
Norway spruce (Picea abies)
While some people are reluctant to buy this type of tree because it is notorious for shedding its needles, what it loses in longevity it gains in scent. It has a lovely fresh a pine resin fragrance.
It’s a good tree if you’re putting it up last minute, or at least closer to Christmas because it won’t last as long as the more expensive non-drop trees.
5. Avoid clipping catastrophes
If you are going to attempt to trim back your own tree, there are rules about pruning.
“Ultimately, you have to cut where is necessary to make it fit the space, but there’s a tidy way of doing it,” says David. “If you cut any given branch halfway down its length fairly unceremoniously, then it’s going to look as if it’s been cut off.
“If you cut it in between the nodes, taking off individual ‘fingers’ of the tree, or find a natural break, that’s always going to look better than if you cut it halfway down. I wouldn’t just take shears to it and cut it off. Look for a natural join. There’s no risk of damaging the tree but because it’s such a centrepiece, it’s worth spending a bit of time on it and pruning with a bit of finesse.”
If the only spot for your tree is by a radiator, you have to accept that it’s going to dry out. This means it will need more water if it’s in a trough, and you’re likely to see some areas going brown and a fair bit of needle-drop.
6. Consider some alternatives
If you simply don’t have room for a proper tree, there are other alternatives when deciding what is the best Christmas tree to buy. Consider long dogwood-style twigs or other branches which you could put in a vase and decorate with baubles to give the room a festive air.
Many garden centres also sell artificial thin trees which are almost like a standard, just with branches on the upper third of the tree.
“There are a lot of artificial trees which have that stark white Betula jacquemontii (silver birch) look,” says David. “It gives that stripped out, minimalistic effect. A real one in a pot would be OK indoors for a couple of weeks in December. You can decorate it and dress it up.
“I’m very much coming over to the notion of having a Christmas tree outside as well because some of the Christmas lights are very well suited to indoor or outdoor use. They can be solar-powered, so you can have a set of lights and you don’t have to worry about power or batteries.”
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